Resilience. Perhaps not a frequently used word, yet one fraught with meaning. For those who seek to become disciples of Christ, it is a defining characteristic of deity and of those divine, to which we aspire. The Oxford English dictionary defines resilience as, “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” The adjective resilient describes “a person able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”
A simple yet poignant outward expression of resiliency from the life of pioneer Eliza R. Snow helps us better understand the need, benefits and way to become more resilient individuals.
For five years, Eliza R. Snow studied and investigated the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before certainty came. Once baptized, and fitted with a firm and ever-growing testimony, she remained constant, never wavering in her devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
During the early days of the Restoration, in the face of intense persecution, Eliza and other faithful LDS Church members were constantly driven from their homes by vicious mobs. Eliza fled mobocracy five times in two years, finally settling with other bedraggled refugees on fairly inhospitable land in what became Nauvoo, Illinois. On June 29, 1842, as a vicious rain and hailstorm battered her dwelling, she made an entry in her diary. A number of compelling truths, relative to resiliency, are revealed in Eliza's brief entry. They are as relevant today as they were then.
She began, as shared in "In Their Own Words, Women and the Story of Nauvoo," by Carol Cornwall Madsen, “Though I rejoice in the blessing of the society of the Saints, and the approbation of God; a lonely feeling will steal over me before I am aware, while I am contemplating the present state of society — the powers of darkness, and the prejudices of the human mind which stand array’d like an impregnable barrier against the work of God.”
First, and rightly so, she relishes her membership in Christ’s church and her association with fellow church members. She takes comfort in knowing that God approves the devotion of faithful Saints. She accurately acknowledges that challenges and difficulties are part and parcel of mortality and while joy is one part of the human condition, individuals will also, at times, feel lonely and will despair over evil acts and wickedness in the world.
As she writes, the weather turns and she muses, “The heavens became shadowed with clouds and a heavy shower of rain and hail ensued, and I exclaimed, ‘O God, is it not enough that we have the … prejudices (of mankind) and their hatred to contend with; but must we stand amid the rage of elements?’” (see "In Their Own Words, Women and the Story of Nauvoo").
At a low point, when seemingly not only fellowmen but nature is conspiring to deepen the Saint’s woes, Eliza poses a compelling question, in essence, “When is ‘enough’ suffering truly and finally enough?”
Clearly, after contemplation and some inkling of what lies ahead, she writes, “I concluded within myself that the period might not be far distant that will require faith to do so (to endure further persecution and the harsh natural world).”
Finally — and here perhaps we get to the heart of the matter — Eliza R. Snow articulates the most effective way to best the tribulations of life: to become resilient against the trials we will each face. She testifies, “But the grace of God is sufficient, therefore I will not fear. I will put my trust in him who is mighty to save, rejoicing in his goodness and determin’d to live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth.” (see "In Their Own Words, Women and the Story of Nauvoo").
Eliza R. Snow testifies that as people manifest faith in Jesus Christ, he will extend grace sufficient to uphold them in and through their trials. She expresses her conviction that the Savior’s goodness and promises are sure and absolute. As we glory in Christ and strive to obey his commandments, we will realize the truth of his promises, and thereby acquire a deeply rooted resiliency — a “toughness, a capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” — because we are certain in the knowledge that Jesus oversees our lives and is, indeed, “mighty to save” us.
As a religious historian, I have studied the lives of countless religious individuals up and into our day who endured myriad challenges and were often stymied in righteous causes for many years. Yet their absolute faith and trust in God and their determination to “live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth,” gave them the resiliency to rise again and again, and to persevere until they prevailed.
Just as Eliza R. Snow was able to do so, each of us can also find that resiliency today as we develop our relationship with Jesus Christ and as our faith and trust in him grows.